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Kanwaka Literary Club

Microfilm rolls MS 884-MS 885, MF 3910.01, MF 7187.01

Ms. Collection No. 5016




This manuscript collection — microfilm reels MS 884-MS 885, MF 3910.01, and MF 7187.01 — circulates through interlibrary loan from KSHS. Please indicate the reel number when requesting microfilm.





4 microfilm reels ; 35 mm.


Kanwaka Literary Club.


Kanwaka Literary Club Records

Portion of title: Records


Ms. Collection No. 5016.


Kansas State Historical Society (Topeka).


This finding aid describes materials on microfilm held by the Kansas Historical Society. Microfilm may be used in the State Archives and Library during regular research hours. Microfilm may also be borrowed through interlibrary loan for your use at a participating public, academic, or research library. Information on interlibrary loan is available from the Kansas State Historical Society and on its web site, /library/illpoli.htm. For information on contacting us, visiting us, and the services we provide, please go to http://kshs.org/portal_state_archives_library.

In a continuing effort to improve the completeness and accuracy of finding aids, revisions are made as more or new information becomes available. Consequently finding aids in paper format, on microfilm, and on the Society's web site may differ slightly.



The Kanwaka Literary Club, originally the Kanwaka Summer Club, was formed in 1899 on the initiative of three ladies of the Kanwaka community, near Lawrence, Kansas. These ladies — Mrs. J.R. Topping, Miss May Etta Richardson and Miss Leonora Ricker — started with an ad placed in the Lawrence Jeffersonian Gazette in April of 1899, to request that interested ladies of the area convene for the purpose of establishing an organization that met their social and intellectual needs. Since no previous women's club existed in the area, this appeal met with positive results.

This literary club "for mutual improvement" which originally met seasonally — travel in the winter was dangerous, as horses became unruly in the cold — had no rules, bylaws, or constitution. New members were admitted by "signing the roll." Later, prospective members were invited to join. They established no geographic limitations. Any woman who could travel to a meeting was invited.

The club became more structured in 1920, adopting a constitution which required new members be approved by the existing membership. By the end of that decade the club split after a prospective member was not admitted. Sixteen members withdrew to form the Goodwill Club, another women's club of similar purpose.

In order to sustain the club's membership rolls, the Kanwaka Literary Club traditionally voted daughters of members into the organization. This procedure, never written into the constitution, has allowed the club to remain active for five generations.

Scope and Content

This microfilm, containing minute books of the meetings of the Kanwaka Literary Club from 1908 through 2005, consists of two initial microfilm rolls, MS 884 – MS 885, containing an historical essay and thirteen minute books spanning from 1908 to 1991 and two accretions: microfilm roll MF 3910.01, containing of minutes from 1992 through 1997, and roll MF 7187.01, with minutes from 1988 through 2005.

Entries in the minute books typically record the date, meeting location (meetings were held in members' homes on a rotating basis), the meeting called to order, roll call, reading the minutes from the previous meeting, treasurer's report, and then the program. The program normally consisted of a book report from one of the members. Periodically, programs took on the form of a video, or a tour of a recently renovated house, or some other activity.

Women's organizations in Kansas developed largely as the result of the environment of the state in the latter part of the nineteenth century. As white Euro-Americans migrated into the western American frontier, women were mostly living in a state of isolation at that time. This persisted in Kansas, at least until the latter part of the nineteenth century and in some rural areas, into the twentieth century. Once Kansas began to fill with settlers and their descendants, the social conditions in which women found themselves changed remarkably. Women's organizations, whether for personal improvement, or for political reform, were actually an indication that the frontier was becoming more "civilized." Organizations such as these can only thrive after frontier homesteads have been converted into established homes. The process of establishing new farms in the early years of Kansas history was too demanding and time-consuming for reform organizations to germinate, much less so for social and self improvement societies.

As women's groups formed, many of them adopted reform causes, such as prohibition, suffrage, and labor reform issues. In Kansas, these women were following a tradition established by their eastern sisters, who had been active in the abolitionist cause during the antebellum days. The age in which women's clubs were flourishing was the age when political reform was also ascending. Women participating in clubs in the Victorian Age thought of these organizations as constituting a renaissance for women, a time when women could form their own "establishment," separate from male-dominated society. Jennie J. Croly remarked "it has been in every sense an awakening to the full glory and meaning of life." Women's social needs provided the impetus for forming groups, circles, and social clubs, that served as an outlet for the expression of their values. Organizations such as these and the records they left behind, serve as barometers of the age and social, cultural and political conditions in which they existed.

Women, throughout the United States during the Victorian and Edwardian ages typically were members of a wide variety of organizations. For example, Martha Farnsworth — who lived in Topeka, Kansas, from 1887 to 1924 — was a member of at least nine different women's organizations.

Aside from promoting serious political reform issues, women organized social clubs whose purpose was to fulfill their need for friendships with female neighbors. The Kanwaka Literary Club met that need, using literary works as a vehicle for socializing.

The year 1920 was a major turning point in the history of women's organizations. By the time women gained the right to vote, with the adoption of the nineteenth amendment to the constitution, all of women's political reform goals had been achieved, and women's reform organizations no longer served a purpose. What next? To an extent, women's social and self-improvement groups were the only remaining social outlet other than church groups. Moreover, most of these clubs served to transcend the usual status barriers, such as wealth, religion and ethnic background. Soon women recognized that these groups served to enhance their domestic "sphere" by educating them and making them better read and informed wives, mothers, and citizens.

At the time the Kanwaka Literary Club loaned this record book, they also loaned a similar book originally from the Pleasant Hour Club. Microfilmed images of that book follow the Kanwaka Literary Club records on roll MS 885.


Collection (no. 5016).  Organized by type of record.

Contents: Ser. 1. Historical essay (microfilm roll MS 884) — ser. 2. Minutes, 1908-2005 (rolls MS 884-MS 885, MF 3910.01, and MF 7187.01) — ser. 3. Ladies Benevolent Association records, 1891-1894 (roll MS 885).

Detailed Description of the Records

Roll 1: MS 884

  • Historical essay
  • Kanwaka Literary Club minutes: 1908 – 1963

Roll 2: MS 885

  • Kanwaka Literary Club minutes: 1964 – 1991
  • Ladies Benevolent Association records, 1891 – 1894

Roll 3: MF 3910.01

  • Kanwaka Literary Club minutes: 1992 – 1997

Roll 4: MF 7187.01

  • Kanwaka Literary Club minutes: 1998 – 2005


Related Records and Collections

  • Ladies Benevolent Association Records, 1891-1894. Microfilm roll MF 885, available through interlibrary loan
  • Pleasant Hour Club Records, 1902-1939. Microfilm roll MF 3910.02, available through interlibrary loan



Underwood, June O., "Civilizing Kansas: Women's Organizations, 1880-1920." Kansas History, Vol. 7, No. 4, Winter 1984/85, pp. 291-306.

Croly, Mrs. J. C. (Jennie J.), The History of the Woman's Club Movement in America. New York: Henry G. Allen & Co., 1898.

Springer, Marlene and Haskell, eds., Plains Woman: The Diary of Martha Farnsworth, 1882-1922. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1986.

Index Terms

Access Points

The terms listed below may include names, places, subjects, occupations, titles, and other words describing this collection. These terms are used in the ATLAS catalog used by the Kansas State Historical Society and affiliated libraries in Topeka, http://lib.wuacc.edu/search, as well as libraries and archives subscribing to OCLC, a national library/archives database. Searches on these words should produce a description of this collection as well as other books and collections that may be of interest.

Corporate names

  • Kanwaka Literary Club. (co-author, subject)
  • Ladies Benevolent Association. (co-author, subject)

Geographic names

  • Douglas County (Kan.)
  • Kanwaka (Kan.)


  • Women – Societies and Clubs.
  • Clubs – Kansas – Kanwaka.
  • Self-culture – Kansas – Douglas County.

Form / Genre

  • Corporate minutes – Kansas – Kanwaka.


Additional Information for Researchers

Acquisition information

Loaned by Margaret C. Wulfkuhle on behalf of the Kanwaka Literary Club in 1999 for microfilming.

Custodial history

Originals owned by the Kanwaka Literary Club.

Restrictions on access


Copyright/ publication rights

Notice: This material may be protected by copyright law (Title 17, U.S. Code). The user is cautioned that the publication of the contents of this microfilm may be construed as constituting a violation of literary property rights. These rights derive from the principle of common law, affirmed in the copyright law of 1976 as amended, that the writer of an unpublished letter or other manuscript has the sole right to publish the contents thereof unless he or she affirmatively parts with that right; the right descends to his or her legal heirs regardless of the ownership of the physical manuscript itself. It is the responsibility of a user or his or her publisher to secure the permission of the owner of literary property rights in unpublished writing.

Preferred citation

[Page number]; Kanwaka Literary Club record book, 1992-1997; ms. collection no.5016; Library and Archives Division, Kansas State Historical Society.


Additional accretions are possible but not expected.

Processing information

Processed in 2000 by Robert A. McInnes; reprocessed by Joseph P. Laframboise, 2006.  Finding aid costs paid by the Kansas State Historical Society.

Other notes

Microfilm.  Topeka, Kan. : Kansas State Historical Society, 1994-2006; rolls MS 84-85, MF 3910.01, MF 7877.01; available for research or inter-library loan.